Renewable Energy on the Horizon

By Rowland Goddard, Staff Writer

It’s no secret that 2020 has been a tough year for everyone. The Coronavirus pandemic has swept across the globe forcing us to change how we go about our lives. Although the pandemic has been ruthless in many regards, it has brought about change and made many societies rethink issues relating to the environment. Renewable energy, such as solar, wind, hydro, and others have become forefront in the energy industry. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, we saw CO2 emissions in China decrease significantly as the country was in lockdown. This was seen again in other countries as they went into full or partial lockdowns. Within days of a lockdown being issued, pollution levels in cities decreased and streets and parks were seen as cleaner and greener. The pandemic gave us a sneak peak of what our cities could look like if  we make environmentally conscious choices today.

Due to the pandemic, global energy demand is set to decline 5%. While this has negatively impacted conventional energy resources, such as oil, renewable energy output has continued to grow. Oil, at one point, was selling in the negatives due to producers fears about storage capacity issues. Renewable output on the other hand is more resilient to changes in global demand. This year renewables used for generating electricity will grow by almost 7%. This resilience can also be seen in the amount of renewable energy being auctioned off. In 2020, auctioned renewable capacity was 15% higher than last year, a new record. We can see across the board that renewables are starting to make a push at eating away market share from fossil fuels. 

Renewable energy sources produce 26% of the world’s electricity today. This number is expected to grow to 30% by 2024. The growth is partly powered by the resurgence of solar energy. The capital cost of solar energy has been in decline and is set to continue the path. In the next 4 years costs of production are predicted to decline by 35%. This is significant because as prices continue to slide, demand will continue to grow as renewables will be seen as a reasonable priced, cleaner alternative. Furthermore, total installed wind and solar cell capacity is on course to surpass natural gas in 2023 and coal in 2024. If this growth is realized, renewables will overtake coal to become the largest producers of electricity. 

This systematic change in thinking is seen to be good for the planet’s environment, a significant creator of new jobs, and a new source for economies of the future. However, not everyone has agreed with this new shift. Over the past 4 years the now outgoing US President Trump has been hesitant to rely on renewables. So despite years of low oil prices, Canada’s oil sector may have been beneficiary of the continued American reliance on fossil fuels. President-elect Joe Biden has been vocal on ensuring America pushes this new agenda in regards to renewable energy. This would entail building renewables on American soil to power American cities. 

Unfortunately for Canada, this would have serious implications for Canadian oil and gas companies as much of oil/gas exports go to the United States. A question Canadians will have to ask themselves is: how do we transition to a future where we rely less on exporting fossil fuels?

The peak demand for oil and gas may be approaching, but it’s all downhill from there. Throughout the next decade, renewable energy will continue to gain market share so it will be critical for Canada to be prepared for this shift. 

Photo by American Public Power Organization, Unsplash 

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